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We are proud of the successes of our Alumni and their contributions to a diverse range of businesses.

Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson

Retired executive vice president; board of directors member at financial services, aerospace/defense, and heavy industrials companies

Making meaningful choices and connections

How has the past year been for you?
I have to admit, it was a difficult transition initially. I retired from an asset and wealth management company in March 2020, after being there for 13 years. It was right when the lockdowns started happening, so I suddenly had all this free time but there was nowhere to go. We couldn’t travel or even spend time with friends and family. Our daughter and her fiancé came to stay with us for an extended time, which was wonderful. However, we weren’t able to spend time with our son who has special needs and lives in a group home for several months. That was incredibly painful. Thankfully, we made it through all that, and things started getting meaningfully better last summer. I had been serving on the board of an aerospace conglomerate for a number of years and was fortunate to be asked to join two additional boards with an investment management company and a metals mining company last fall. Also, after 30 years of dreading golf events, I’ve started to really enjoy the game. I feel like I have a good balance that keeps me engaged and active, and I’m really enjoying this time.

What’s the best part of being a member of these boards?
Continuing to learn, to be surrounded by incredibly smart and accomplished people, and to feel like I bring my experience to make a positive contribution. It is particularly interesting to work with companies that are in very different industries — financial services, aerospace/defense, and heavy industrials — but deal with many of the same issues; for example, attracting and retaining talent; fostering innovation, developing a differentiated strategy, and achieving operational excellence. Then, at the same time, I’m expanding my own knowledge about other sectors, the evolution of new technologies, and how to better address the nuances related to critical environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and can bring these learnings to each of the companies I work with.

How are companies thinking differently about ESG issues now?
Historically, I think the “G” of ESG was what first came to prominence in terms of the independence and diversity of the board, the various committee structures, and executive compensation. Then, of course, people realized the strategic value in prioritizing environmental impacts. What I find particularly wonderful right now is the emphasis on the “S” in ESG. I think the push from all stakeholders for greater transparency and disclosure about the makeup of the workforce will help. But it’s not just about having a workforce that reflects our demographics, it’s about creating a culture where everyone can contribute their unique skills and ideas — where they feel safe, heard, and respected. That’s when we get the very best out of people and that’s a winning formula for any company and why the board needs to be very focused on these issues.

What stands out from your time at PwC?
I always felt hugely supported at the firm. When I was a young manager and learned my son had special needs, I thought I’d have to quit my job to care for him. But the people I worked with, especially some of the women partners, were so supportive and they gave me the option to work part-time. Then, a few years later when I was ready, I came back full-time. Soon after, I made partner. My experience at PwC instilled in me a strong work ethic, a value set, the foundation for everything I accomplished then and later in my career and importantly, we had fun. My very best friends today are women I worked with at the firm. I’m eternally grateful for the 16 years that I spent at PwC.

What’s the best advice you can offer to other aspiring leaders?
Don’t be afraid of taking risks. Have confidence in your abilities. Broaden the diversity of people at your table. And be willing to share your own stories. When I think about my own story, and my children, I think I was a better leader and a better manager because of them. I was more focused when I was at work. I was more empathetic to the team and what people are experiencing. And I hope maybe I was more approachable because I was honest about what I was going through as a working parent. I think it’s really important for us all to try to make meaningful connections with the people we work with.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve taken from the past year?
I think we’ve proven the idea that work is not a place. Stuff still gets done and people can be even more productive when they can be flexible in where and when they work. We’ve seen people embrace new technologies. Of course, I think we’ll always still need in-person interactions because there’s nothing like going to get a cup of coffee with someone or brainstorming together in small groups. It’s also important to make time for yourself, for your family, for your friends. My husband and I just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, and it’s been great to have more time with him and our friends. I do think for me, one of the most important decisions I made was the partner I chose to spend my life with. Because stuff will happen, ups and downs through the rest of your life, and it’s been so important to have somebody who’s there to weather those ups and downs with me.

Of all your achievements so far, what makes you most proud?
When I see somebody who I hired or mentored do well. That’s incredibly gratifying, to know you helped create opportunities and careers for the people behind you.

This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jen Swetzoff, founder and creative director of CLOSEUP. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

Contact us

Amy Paquette

Amy Paquette

US Alumni Network team, PwC US

Sallie Hinson

Sallie Hinson

US Alumni Network team, PwC US

Kerri Murphy

Kerri Murphy

US/MX Alumni Network Leader, PwC US

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